Kaitlyn Ronn (21) scores for Blaine in the first period of Friday's 3-1 win over Proctor-Hermantown.
The beginning of Friday night’s game against Proctor-Hermantown wasn’t exactly nightmarish for Blaine, but the game’s initial minutes were far from a sweet dream for the Bengals.
The Mirage, ranked No. 5 in Class 1A, scored in the first 90 seconds of the game, as Alyssa Watkins’ centering pass was unintentionally deflected by a Blaine defender past eighth-grade goaltender Hailey Hansen to spot the Mirage a 1-0 lead.
“That’s the third goal we’ve scored on ourselves this year,” Blaine coach Steve Guider said after the game. “I think (in) four games we’ve given up a goal on our first shift. I hate to say we’re used to it, but we’re trying to avoid that.”
Less than a week before facing the Mirage (12-7-2), the Bengals recorded a 5-4 win over Edina, then the No. 2 team in Class 2A and one of the best collections of overall talent in the state. How did the Bengals go from beating the state’s best to appearing so lethargic and disorganized?
“I didn’t think we were as good in the defensive zone. In fact, I know we weren’t,” Guider said. “We got sloppy, they got people behind us,” Guider added. “(Proctor-Hermantown) had three or four good chances. It could have been ugly for us.”
Fortunately for Bengals, they rebounded with a pair of goals just 17 seconds apart late in the first, as freshman defender Kaitlyn Ronn and senior forward Ramsey Parent evened and then erased the early disadvantage. The goals, combined with stellar play by Hansen, allowed the Bengals to nurse a 2-1 lead for the entire second period.
“I believe we have the best eighth-grade goaltender in the state. She’s exceptional,” Guider said of Hansen, who has played every minute this season for the Bengals. “We just gotta give her a look at the puck, give her a chance.”
Hansen finished with 22 saves to earn the victory and sounded like a seasoned veteran when she explained how she regrouped after allowing a tough-luck goal early in the game.
“Shake it off. Reset. Refocus,” Hansen said. “My team’s got my back. They’re going to work hard for me, and we can handle it.”
Maddie Andrle added a goal in the third period to help ice the 3-1 win for the Bengals, who are now back to .500 with a record of 8-8-1.
Proctor-Hermantown's Alyssa Watkins scored the lone goal for the Mirage in Friday's loss.
Andrle is one of seven freshmen on the Blaine varsity roster, familiar territory for Ramsey Parent played as she joined the varsity as a ninth-grader for the 2015-2016 season. Parent said that she has smoothly transitioned into the role of elder statesperson for the Bengals.
“I had a lot of senior leadership when I was an underclassman, so I just try to do the same,” Parent said, adding that she takes it upon herself to keep it positive in the locker room and not only point out areas that need improvement but also parts of the Bengals’ game that are flourishing.
In addition to being a two-time selection for the Associated Press all-state honorable mention team, Parent leads this year's Bengals in scoring with 22 goals and 31 points.
Hansen said that she and rest of the underclassmen are responding well to the team’s veteran presences.
“My senior captains, they’re fantastic,” Hansen said. “I’m so thankful to have them on my team. They work extremely hard. They push me to become better,” Hansen continued. “I love that because I want to become great, and they help me to be able to do that.”
Ramsey Parent leads the Bengals with 22 goals and 31 points. She had a goal on Friday night.